From active duty to Citizen Airman: Serving homeland and community

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TUCSON, Ariz. — If joining the Armed Forces is a sign of a love for country, joining the National Guard might be a sign of devotion to the community.

Life is unpredictable. I began my officer commissioning program believing I was going to be a research scientist. Priorities change and goals shift. I found myself passionate about advocating for our missions and telling the incredible stories of our service members.

I separated from active duty nearly a year ago, but even then I knew my mission in uniform wasn’t yet complete. I picked up my life (and my husband) from Maryland. We moved across the country to pursue the next chapter of my professional life in my home of record: Phoenix, Arizona.

One of the reasons I was drawn back to our purple mountain majesties and desert sunsets splashed with oranges and pinks wasn’t just the amazing job opportunity I had with my current full-time employer–it was a part-time public affairs officer position at the 162nd Wing in Tucson, Arizona. I’d always admired the Guard mission, and was excited to serve my native state. I still am.

I believe we’re especially lucky at the 162nd Wing with such a breadth of critical missions – training U.S. and partner pilots in the most prevalent fighter jet in the world, two Predator missions providing critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; protecting our own national sovereignty and airspace with an Aerospace Control Alert Detachment that’s ready to respond at any time; and providing airspace and support for joint training missions through the Total Force Training Center – there can’t possibly be a more exciting wing in the Air National Guard. I might be biased.

The Guard affords the luxury of locality. We are our community, and we are always ready to protect it. We have boasted the best citizen soldiers for 379 years, evolving from defending the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 to flying full-time remotely piloted aircraft missions over war zones in defense of our nation.

When I joined the Guard, I was surprised that combat veterans make up nearly half our forces, but I shouldn’t have been. I have been at the 162nd for nine months and I now know what it means to be Guard strong.

We defend our skies at home, protect our neighbors during and after natural disaster, and work alongside those neighbors in our civilian jobs. Make no mistake – our passion for community does not make us less capable when our nation calls. Whether its humanitarian aid, nation building or fighting our nation’s wars, every member of the Guard knows our communities extend beyond the boundaries of our neighborhoods.

So for this year’s Guard birthday, let’s celebrate our unique dual role as guardians of both the homeland. No other force is trusted like the National Guard. Here’s to another 379 years of trust, partnership, and capability for our communities and our nation.